Barbados' visitor numbers rise by 8% for five-month period

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados -- With an 8% increase in visitors from January through May compared with the same period last year, a three-year renewal of American Express' official card program with Barbados and the launch of a television ad campaign, the mood among tourism officials here is buoyant.

In fact, "buoyant" was the precise word used by Noel A. Lynch, who was appointed minister of tourism and international transport in May.

Barbados has numbers that other island nations can only dream about, such as seven years of continuous growth in visitor figures and revenues.

Tourism revenues totaled $1.4 billion for that period, a figure Lynch and officials at the Barbados Tourism Authority want to double by 2005.

"We have to use the past to build on the present and enhance and energize our position for the next three to five years," Lynch said. "Our tourism policies and strategies are due for an overhaul."

American Express and Barbados recently renewed their partnership in tourism.

The partnership, which pools financial and marketing resources, includes advertising in key feeder markets, direct mail targeted to American Express members, travel agent communications and promotional programs in Barbados.

The first such program is the Island of the Month promotion running this month in which Barbados is the featured destination.

An ad campaign, which will be launched this fall, is centered on the theme of rediscovery which, as Lynch said, "taps into a universal desire for a simpler way of living. The challenge is to capsulize Barbados in a 30-second television commercial."

Barbados is in a period of "dynamic change," and the government "needs to be more of a facilitator in an economy that is increasingly private-sector driven," Lynch said.

The BTA plans more thrust in the North American market to drive U.S. business to the island. South America, too, will get lots of attention from tourism officials.

The seaport and international airport will be upgraded and enlarged by 2005; Internet reach will be expanded, and niche markets, especially golf, honeymoon and meetings, will be promoted aggressively.

"Barbados could become the golf capital of the eastern Caribbean," Lynch said. "We offer championship golf at Royal Westmoreland, Sandy Lane and Rockley courses, and there are plans for more courses."

More airlift, aggressive sales efforts that target agents and operators and the presence of a brand hotel with name recognition and renovations of older properties are among BTA's goals, Lynch said.

Barbados Tourism Authority
Phone: (800) 221-9831
Web: www.barbados.org

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